Monday, November 08, 2004

Halt right there 

Margaret gives us a little tongue-lashing.

I listened to the NARN show, while David indulged his favorite post show activity, sleeping.

In the 3rd hour, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. They had on Sarah Janacek, Politics in Minnesota maven. ...

1. Republicans in the House lost because they supported the Governor's holding his pledge not to raise taxes and to not fully fund Local Government Aid. The suburban voter was concerned about School funding, according to this argument. ...

2. Fiscal conservatives... lost.

3. Republicans in the House lost due to opposition to Northstar. ...

I don't mean to be hypercritical of Sarah. She may be many things and several of them are being a contract lobbyist. But NARN guys, stop basking in the glow of the national results. Wake up and smell your wallets burning.

I am still not sure what to think about the last election in the Minnesota House, it seems that there were a lot of factors at play and it is hard to take a single lesson from the result. A referendum against no new taxes? I think not.

I don't think we've gone Keynesian, Margaret, despite letting Sarah have some run on the show. I was not there for the questioning but I did listen to the last 20 minutes on the stream. I agree with Margaret that we don't know why the examples she and Margaret of incumbents losing do in fact lose. I do know the race in 16B because I have met Mark Olson and I know his opponent Jim Huhtala well (he's one of my Saturday breakfast brigade regulars). Olson does a good job of local constituent service; Jim, a retired UPS delivery man, probably knows every business in his district. But Jim's a neophyte; moreover, that district is going to be very conservative by and large, and Jim's an unabashed liberal. Northstar didn't really come into play in that district; had I been on with Janacek and heard this, I would have had to tell her this is incorrect. The votes for President and for MN House in that district were about the same.

There is nothing Keynesian, moreover, with saying that voters respond to pork. There is ample evidence that they do, none more than the fact that politicians keep doing it. That doesn't mean the no-tax pledge of the Taxpayers League is a loser. What every voter wants, ideally, is a conservative that helps hold taxes down at a macro level while still bringing home projects at the micro level. Our own Jim Knoblauch in District 15A, chair of the committee in charge of bonding bills for state projects, ran ads glorifying his bringing home money for the university stadium and bike trails, but he's known as a fiscal conservative who signed the Taxpayers League's pledge. The local newspaper supported his candidacy despite the latter, because they know he can deliver a bill to put into effect the sales tax extension our city just passed. No Keynesian, he.

We understand still that state governments that spend a great deal divert money from more to less useful investment projects. I'm sure there is nobody in NARN who disagrees with that. But converting that economic point into a political one that wins elections isn't all that easy. A tax pledge may work in some skinflint states (like my native New Hampshire, where Mel Thompson's "Ax the Tax" motto won him three terms as governor), but might not in Minnesota. It just means the League has more work to do in convincing the independent voters of the Twin Cities suburbs and outstate that their little bit of pork comes at the expense of paying for bucketloads more in the Cities.

UPDATE: John Fund notes this morning that Democrats made gains in state houses around the U.S., so perhaps we're caught up in a broader trend than just Minnesota.